Authorities in Portugal have approved plans by the Metropolitan Police to dig for evidence at the resort where Madeleine McCann went missing seven years ago.
Forensic teams will use ground penetrating radar equipment to examine three sites in Praia da Luz, Sky News has reported, in an operation that comes just days after the seventh anniversary of her disappearance.
The operation is understood to have not been launched by new information. Instead, there appears to be “information that was given to the Portuguese over the past seven years that indicated that there might be evidence to be found at certain locations”.
The excavations, which are expected to be conducted by forensic experts, are not thought to necessarily be in connection with a search for the youngster's body or remains.
The locations are believed to include an area of beach and an area surrounding the apartments were Madeleine was last seen, although this has not been confirmed.
Scotland Yard has refused to comment on the reports. The McCanns' spokesman Clarence Mitchell said: "As always, we simply will not comment on operational details of Operation Grange, that is a matter for the Met Police.
"Kate and Gerry are being kept fully informed throughout."
Madeleine went missing on 3 May 2007, after she disappeared from her bed in the Portuguese resort of Praia da Luz. She was three-years-old when she vanished.
Last week, Madeleine’s mother Kate McCann spoke of her desperation to find out the truth about what happened to her daughter, even if it is “the worst case scenario”.
She told The Sun: "If it was down to not knowing or finding out news that isn't what you want to hear? At the end of the day I can't change that. What would you rather?”
In April police confirmed they are investigating five new cases where young British girls were sexually assaulted during home-break-ins in the Algarve.